- Life is unpredictable
You can plan your future with rainbows and sunshine, but life has a mind of its own. It will knock you down, bring you back up, close doors in your face, put you through hurdles and then show you an open door when least expected. I planned to go to Vancouver, explore and do landscape photography. I didn’t think I’d break my leg in a million years, especially while on a solo trip, but it happened.
- You’re stronger than you thought
Mentally. While in the trauma bay, doctors and nurses continuously asked if anyone was with me. I repeated that I was on a solo trip. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about it. I was preoccupied with calling Thrifty to tell them I was unable to drive their car rental anymore and figuring out how to reschedule my Taiwan trip, which was going to be in two weeks.
Of course, I was fortunate to break my leg in Stanley Park and not during a hike where I was by myself with no cellphone service.
- Surgery leaves you exhausted
If you’re fortunate to receive a cast for your fractured tibia, good for you. I underwent surgery to nail a metal rod inserted within my tibia. This was to make sure the fracture heals correctly.
This trip seemed to have many firsts, including my first time receiving surgery. Anesthesia makes you groggy and tired. Nurses were trying to speak to me after I woke up from surgery, but I fell right asleep.
- There are compassionate strangers in this world
My Airbnb hosts visited me at the hospital to bring me extra clothes, their used crutches, carried me up and down the stairs, since their three-floor apartment had no elevator, and drove me to the pharmacy for my painkillers. My taxi driver bought me lunch. Strangers offered to help at the airport. My fellow airplane seat-mates gave up their seats so I could rest my broken leg on their seats.
- Your parents care more about you than you care for yourself
You probably won’t meet anyone who’ll take care of you like your mom does/did. That’s the sad part. My mom reacted worse to my broken leg than I did.
My parents are always here for me, waiting with me at hospital checkups, driving me to physiotherapy, cooking me food and constantly asking if I’m doing okay. I can see them getting tired, but they won’t stop until I’m good as new again. I just hope I can be there for them as they grow older.
- You’ll feel frustrated
The inability to do your usual tasks will take a toll on your mental health. There were days where my helplessness made my cry myself to sleep. As an independent woman, who’s used to taking on tasks solo, this experience made me realize that I could never live a life dependant on others, whether financially or for happiness. You’ll get a serious case of FOMO, as you watch your friends go out without you. You’ll spend the first month or so bed-ridden, longing to feel the outside air just once.
- You’ll gain weight
All that time spent in bed, where all you did was eat, sleep and pop painkillers? It’ll make you pack on the pounds. It’s what I realized when I weighed myself recently. I get depressed whenever I think about it. I can only hope to shed it off once I’m back on both feet.
- Your body is magic
Your body does its best to protect and heal you and you don’t even need to think about it. My tibia fracture is healing slowly, but surely. I’m regaining my strength. And I know I’ll be hitting the trails and going back to my photography soon enough.
- You’ll get through it like you’ve always did
Think back on the times you felt your life was crashing down. You came out alive then and you’ll come out alive now. This is just another obstacle life threw at you. And you’ll have more to come as life continues. The ups and downs are a part of life. You wouldn’t know happiness if you didn’t know pain.
- You’ve become mentally indestructible (kind of)
I have this urge to solo travel even more. I’ve been through one of the worst things that can happen and I’m getting through it. I feel more resilient. And I know it’ll be easier for me to push through whatever else life will throw at me. Life doesn’t stop while you mope about your problems. So you quickly get back on your feet and trudge on through.
“I THOUGHT I WAS ON PAIN MEDS!!!”
The morphine didn’t affect me—my screams drained the blood from the nurses’ faces and gained looks of sympathy from neighbouring people as the doctor straightened my broken leg to bandage it.
A few painful x-rays later, it was confirmed: a fractured tibia and fibula. Instead of a cast, I would receive surgery around noon the next day to nail a metal rod along my fractures to heal my bones. I stayed in the hospital overnight.
A question I was constantly asked by nurses and doctors: you don’t have anyone here with you!?
Nope. I was solo.
A Few Hours ago
Ecstatic and a bit nervous. It was my first solo trip and I was excited to tackle the British Columbian mountains, hiking trails and cities on my own.
I was enjoying the beautiful Fall foliage. That morning, I visited Brandywine Falls in Squamish and hiked the Cheakamus Lake trail in Whistler. The rain didn’t dampen my mood. When the sun finally did peak, the orange, red and yellow maple leaves basked gloriously in its yellow glow. The green grass glistened and the air smelt of pleasant, dewy petrichor. It was surreal.
Upon my return from the Cheakamus Lake hike, I thought about paying a visit the nearby Train Wreck Trail. But I figured I’d return to Whistler and set on my 2 hour drive back to my Airbnb in Vancouver. I picked up a rice bowl from the Freshii in Park Royal, a Vancouver shopping centre. Chewing spoonfuls of rice while I sat on my bed, I thought: what should I do next? I was feeling tired but wanted to find a spot to photograph the sunset. I was in BC for a week and was eager to make the most of it so I decided to visit the lighthouse at Stanley Park.
I left my Airbnb a bit late—the sun had started to set and with traffic, it was a 30 minute drive to the lighthouse. I was following Google Maps and missed a turn. Instead of seven minutes away, the lighthouse was now 17 minutes away. The sky was going from a mixture of pink, orange and purple to blue. I didn’t drive 30 minutes just to miss the sunset.
I was driving along Stanley Park and came across a side view of Lions Gate Bridge. It was lit up against the darkening sky. It would make a beautiful shot. I parked my car, grabbed my Nikon camera and tripod and started down a small grassy hill.
It happened too quickly: I fell on the spot. My right knee bent and I fell in a strange sitting position. There was this odd pain sensation in my right leg; I’d never felt it before. I couldn’t get up. My first thought: Oh crap, I broke my leg! There was a slight painful jabbing sensation in my right calf and I thought my bone was broken to the point where it was poking against my skin. I couldn’t muster a look. I thought of crying out for help, but made a split-second decision to frantically search for my phone, dial 911 and yell “I think I broke my leg!!!” at the dispatcher.
The ambulance drove past me twice until they finally located me. It was dark. People walking by stared at me. It must’ve looked odd for someone to be laying on their side, propped on their left elbow in the middle of grass, on a chilly night. I shivered feverously.
I was taken to the trauma bay in St.Paul’s hospital. Nurses ordered me to undress and wear a hospital gown. I’m telling you now—removing skinny jeans from a broken leg isn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. The nurse refused to cut them because they were cute and I had already gotten the top of my jeans down to my ankles. I doubt I’ve ever screamed so much in my life.
My surgery was bumped and didn’t happen during noon the next day. I was second on the emergency list. The nurse told me I’d have it early morning the next day.
I squinted my eyes open. I was being rolled out of the surgery room in a stretcher. Post-op is a blur. All I remember is telling a nurse I felt run over by truck and being deathly exhausted.
I was discharged from the hospital the next day after a physiotherapist deemed my use of crutches okay. Back at my Airbnb apartment, I stayed in bed and was fortunate to have extremely attentive and helpful Airbnb hosts. They carried me up and down the stairs since their three-floor apartment had no elevator. They paid me visits to the hospital to bring me crutches, extra clothing and most importantly—a phone charger.
My return to Toronto with a broken leg was easier than expected. I had wheelchair service throughout Vancouver International Airport and Toronto Pearson Airport. I paid an extra $20 for a seat with extra leg room on Air Transat. The seat didn’t actually have extra legroom. The two people in my row were kind of enough to sit elsewhere so I could keep my broken foot elevated on their seats.
There you have it. Two days spent exploring BC and four days in the hospital. Those two days were wonderful and I miss the beauty of province. I’m hopeful to return next Fall (perhaps move there).
Have you ever gone through unexpected experiences during a trip?
Ottawa born and raised Mohammed El-Karaouni is Founder and Operations Manager of Al Deewan Halal Bakery, a richly appetizing restaurant boasting authentic Lebanese flavours—something Mohammed says Toronto lacked. Located in Scarborough, Al Deewan Bakery was inspired by Ottawa’s exuberant Lebanese community and restaurants and aims to give the authenticity of back home; to make others feel like they’re in Lebanon when at the bakery.
Mohammed’s bakery dream couldn’t have been complete without the 6000 pounds open-flame oven he had imported to Toronto from his Lebanon trip. This oven is crucial to making authentic manakeesh. While it’s usually common to create manakeesh in a pizza oven, which emits heat from one direction, this open-flame oven offers the real deal—the flames on both sides evenly heat up the manakeesh into a warm, soft bread.
I watch as Abou Rami, Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen’s original baker for 35 years, lays two manakeesh on a big wooden spoon and slides it into the oven. He pulls it out after they’ve cooked.
Mohammed then cuts them using a pizza cutter, places them in a paper bag and hands them to a waiting customer. His most sold food item is, unsurprisingly, the zaatar manakeesh. The soft, warm, cheesy bread melts in your mouth. Other manakeesh options include muhammara with cheese, and a zestier option, tomato sauce and cheese manakeesh.
The bakery offers free unlimited tea and a lot of samples for new customers and sees many regulars outside of the Lebanese community.
Here’s a kicker—Mohammed isn’t just an entrepreneur, he’s been a member of Toronto Police service for 13 years with. He plans to open a second bakery location in Mississauga.
1415 Kennedy Rd #9, Scarborough
ON M1P 2L6
My ultimate bucket list item when I visited British Columbia? Hike to the bottom of Brandywine Falls, as the last time I visited, I couldn’t figure it out.
There are a few blog posts out there that explain how to get to the bottom of Brandywine Falls, so I read through those. However, there were points along the hike where I confusedly paused to see where to head next. I did this hike solo, so getting wildly lost wasn’t an option.
When I hiked back to the top of Brandywine, to the lookout points, I realized how insanely easy and short this hike was and that I had taken the long way down.
Park in Brandywine Fall’s parking lot and walk to the third lookout point, where you get this view:
The fence ends here, and it’s where the trail begins. The trail here is well-trodden and easy to follow.
You’ll soon come across a rocky slope. After hiking down, look for pink or orange ribbons tied around tree branches or trunks. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two colours, but throughout the hike, as long as I saw either ribbon, I knew I was on the right path.
You’ll eventually come across a tree with two pink ribbons tied around its base. Hike down, past this tree. This is where I got confused.
To your left, there will be a well-trodden dirt path (red arrow) and to your right are a bunch of rocks (yellow arrow). Naturally I assumed the dirt path was supposed to be taken and went that way. There was an opening. To your right will be another opening and if you walk past the trees and logs, there will be huge stone ‘steps’, which I climbed down. This is the long way down, and I don’t recommend it, as there are a bunch of tree branches and logs in your way, making it difficult to get across.
If you follow the yellow arrow and hike down the rocks, you’ll come across an opening at the bottom. Keep walking towards your right, you’ll eventually start seeing ribbons again.
A large part of the hike consists of hiking down larger rocks. There aren’t obvious landmarks in the forest, however you’ll know you’re on the right path when you come across this log you need to go under:
Once you spot this opening in the forest, you’re almost there. Hike in the direction against the river current — there’s no getting lost at this point. The rushing waterfall can loudly be heard.
Brandywine Falls is glorious up close. You can walk as close to it as you want, but you will get wet! The hike is worth it, and it’s one of my favourite ones in BC!
The hike back was easier. Follow the ribbons, climb the rocky slope and you’ll soon return to the opening with the tree with the two pink ribbons tied around its base.
I’ve read on how other bloggers saw a rope that you can hold on to while climbing down. I never saw a rope during the hike, so there may me multiple ways to get to the bottom of Brandywine Falls.
Banff town is a quaint, village-like area with shops and restaurants that could be explored by foot, but not so much by car. Still, to battle aching feet or being grounded inside a rumbling metal beast in search of parking spots, there lies a better option: the moped.
The moped is perfect. It will allow you to navigate narrow, winding roads with ease and diverge from traffic if it gets chaotic. Travel faster than by foot, with the wind in your hair, yet not confined within a car. With a moped, you’re riding through the landscapes, not watching it pass by through a rolled down window. The ease of maneuverability allows you to make pit stops anywhere when something catches your eye—this was fantastic as I could quickly halt, hop off my moped and capture photographs of towering mountains and waterfalls whenever I pleased.
I rented a moped from Banff Scooter Company LTD. Conveniently located on Banff Avenue, it was easy to spot with the bright orange mopeds parked near the entrance. The lovely couple at the counter helped my sister and I fill in forms and make a damage deposit after we presented our driver’s licenses. Then they brought us to the other end of their office to fit helmets. Once all admin stuff was cleared, we headed outside, learned how to turn on and off the moped, and walked our mopeds across the street to a large, empty parking lot.
We needed to learn how to drive them first.
As someone who’s adept at driving cars and riding bikes, I assumed it was going to be a breeze. The owner had us ride around the parking lot, slowly at first to get a feel of it. Navigating the steering wheel and braking were tougher than I thought, but I got the hang of within 30 minutes. Riding on actual Banff streets was the next part.
The owner gives you a verbal map of where to go and what to see. If you remember the main points, it’s easy to not get lost. We drove on well-kept roads, past green fields, looming mountains and came across lakes and waterfalls.
Driving a moped through Banff is easily one of the most fun and relaxing way to tour the area. You see so much in way less time and it’s relatively inexpensive—my sister and I rented the mopeds for two hours, which came to be CAD $35/hour and included the helmet, lock and gas. Two hours were enough for us. However, the three-hour option is great if you will stop to eat at a restaurant or shop.
The mopeds are in excellent condition and come with a large enough component under the seat, where I kept my DSLR. The mopeds are usually available from spring to early fall. Although you can reserve a moped ahead of time, my sister and I were able to rent ours upon walking in. If you visit Banff, I recommend doing a self-guided tour with a moped to take in the brilliant scenery.
Let me know in the comments below, where have you explored on a moped or scooter?
Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Banff Scooter Company LTD. I just think they were great!
New York City is easy to fall in love with.
If you’re into large, bustling cities that is. A myriad of things can happen under the luminescent glow of huge adverts, which bombard you with the latest products and store sales. Costumed buskers, the warm scent of soft pretzels, a plethora of tourists busying the streets and a hearty population of 8.5 million people, solitude in NYC may seem like a startling notion. But NYC is so busy and lively, it’s entirely possible to remain invisible, which does well to let you give yourself undivided attention.
Thing is, there are many things to do in Lower Manhattan, NYC. It’s easy to want to do everything, yet do nothing while spending time figuring out activities for the day. I’ve compiled a one-day itinerary of seven free things to do while (mostly) on foot.
- The Brooklyn Bridge
Start your day at the Brooklyn Bridge. The earlier the better if you want the bridge (mostly) to yourself and to take photographs. If you’re into a morning stroll, it takes about 60 minutes to walk across the bridge’s entirety. The view is incredible. The Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge come into view across the East River. You can spot the Statue of Liberty.
- The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was gifted from the French to commemorate the American Declaration of Independence and the alliance of France and the United States during the American Revolution. A globally recognized iconic statue, don’t settle on viewing the Statue of Liberty from afar, it’s worth it to see it up close. There are two ways to do this: take the free Staten Island ferry or purchase a Liberty Island entry ticket.
The Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal is located close to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge in Lower Manhattan, just a 20-minute walk or 10-minute taxi/Uber ride. The ferry transports individuals to and fro Manhattan and Staten Island. It’s an excellent way to not only see the Statue of Liberty, but to also catch NYC’s glimmering skyline.
- Wall Street
Did you know Wall Street is named after a wall built by the Dutch in the 17th century? It was built for protection, but later dismantled by the British. Back then it was a busy trading area. It still is, although now it’s a trading hub of the largest financial markets.
And what’s a trip to NYC without devouring the heart of capitalism? Upon return from your Statue of Liberty cruise to the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal, walk five minutes to the charging bull and fearless girl, another two iconic American statues.
- Trinity Church
Your Wall Street tour isn’t over yet, but just four minutes away is the Trinity Church, near where Wall Street and Broadway intersect. The Trinity Church is centred around the Episcopal Church and the global Anglican Communion. It provided refuge for those fleeing the 9/11 attacks and has been amidst controversy involving Occupy Wall Street.
Dim lights and low, rhythmic hymns occupied the church—I happened to visit during Sunday mass. Security is present to remind visitors to stay quiet and observe from the back of the church.
- Wall Street Financial District
Make your way south on Wall Street. The offices and headquarters of NYC’s major financial institutions like the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 23 Wall Street, which used to be the J.P. Morgan & Co headquarters and the Trump Building will come into view.
An interesting thing to note, and one which many tourists don’t seem to know was the 1920 terrorist attacks on 23 Wall Street. On September 16, a dynamite-filled horse-drawn carriage detonated, killing 30 people. First believed to be caused be a Russian from the Red Army, FBI investigation concluded, 3 years later, that Italian anarchists were behind the attack. The group had conducted an onslaught of bombings across America in 1919. There’s nothing notable left of the bombings, except markings and scars on the side of 23 Wall Street.
- The National September 11 Memorial
From the Wall Street Financial District, take a 10-minute walk back towards Trinity Church, past Broadway to the 9/11 memorial. Officially opening in 2011, the memorial is located at the site of the former World Trade Center complex. The names of the 2996 people who died are inscribed on bronze parapets surrounding the twin memorial pools.
Right in front of you will be the One World Trade Centre, the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex. It’s the tallest building in NYC and offers a 360° birds-eye-view of the city from its observatory for a price.
There are many free or pay-what-you-wish museums in the area, such as the National Museum of the American Indian. You can also visit Battery Park. Afterwards, you can make your way to Times Square via train (subway) or hail a cab/book an Uber.
- Times Square
The heart of NYC, Times Square was named after the New York Times. More so located in Midtown Manhattan, it’s an outdoor gallery, with various performers and cartoon characters. See the Naked Cowboy or Gospel Choir at Times Square Church. You can eat, grab a seat in the pedestrian zone and people watch—NYC hosts many interesting characters. You can snatch a free seat for a live taping of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Just remember to book your free seat in advance. If you’re in Times Square near midnight, don’t miss the Midnight Moment—the world’s largest digital art exhibition where sign operators collaborate to display synchronized, creative content on the huge billboards every night, immersing the city with spectacular imagery.
If you have time to spare, visit the NYC Information Centre in Times Square located on Broadway, between 43rd and 44th Streets. You can get free guides, maps, brochures, coupons and discounts for hundreds of activities and sights in NYC.
I visited New York City a few weeks ago, after 15 years, and I forgot how mesmerizing the city can be. It’s a perfect city to explore solo, although I would advise solo women take caution while exploring at night. Times Square is generally a safe place due to crowds. I explored Manhattan with my DSLR in hand and nothing happened. I was there for a weekend and I hope to return soon.
Have you been to NYC? Which free activity have you enjoyed there?
Self-proclaimed as the ultimate experience for chocolate lovers around the globe, Max Brenner boasts a dessert menu bursting with sweet concoctions, like crepes, sundaes and fondue. For those less-inclined towards their sweet-tooth—don’t fret—Max Brenner has a brunch and savoury menu.
Headquartered in New York City, Max Brenner boasts 50 global locations, including Australia, Singapore and the Philippines, with eyes on Russia. Most locations outside of America host Max Brenner Chocolate Bars as opposed to restaurants. The bars are more Starbucks-esque, having only sweet options. Here, you order over the counter and seat yourself.
Rumour is Max Brenner is opening in Toronto. Until then, I snatched the opportunity to indulge in some chocolate goodness while in New York City for New Year’s Eve.
First hearing about it from friends, who exclaimed I had to dine there, to Max Brenner’s enticing Instagram feed, my sisters and I detoured to Max Brenner instead of claiming early spots at Times Square for the New Year’s Eve event. The air was frigid. The thought of entering Times Square at two pm and staying there until midnight seemed like a preposterous idea. The morning Statue of Liberty cruise already had me enveloped in cold-like symptoms.
We rushed inside a Starbucks down Manhattan’s 8th Avenue, our faces covered with thick wool scarves. I used the WiFi to make 3:30 pm reservations on Max Brenner’s website and book an Uber there, while my sister ordered a chai latte. Our Uber took us to Max Brenner just in time for our 3:30 reservation. And thank goodness for that reservation. The lineup to receive seating was huge. It wasn’t even a lineup—just a mass of people standing around the inside entrance. Fortunately, the hostess had us walk right past everyone, to our table.
The hosts and servers mostly consist of students, dressed somewhat professional (think dress pants with a casual top). They were friendly, relaxed and not overly professional.
Dessert was the motivation.
I ordered the chocolate chunks waffle consisting of chocolate hazelnut spread, milk and white chocolate chunks, chocolate drizzle, mixed berries and vanilla ice cream. My sister ordered the strawberry hazelnut crepe, consisting of chocolate hazelnut spread, sliced strawberries and powdered sugar, with chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream. My other sister settled with an Oreo latte.
For drinks, I ordered white chocolate chai and my sister had the Kangaroo Cup, a coffee cup with a melting chocolate pouch, which allows chocolate to melt and swirl into your coffee.
The strawberry hazelnut crepe was delicious. I was surprised to see the waffle plate arrive with two waffles—I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it. The waffles looked dissimilar to the waffle image on the menu. They were overdone, in my opinion, to a crisp, dark brown. I like my waffles soft and fluffy. I gave the white chocolate chunks waffle to my sister, which she ate alongside her Oreo latte.
The Oreo latte was amazing. It’s topped with whipped cream and Oreo crumbles and has a slightly sweet, warm taste.
The Kangaroo Cup was bitter, and undrinkable (for my sister at least), which was surprising as she has a penchant for bitter foods like black coffee and dark chocolate.
The white chocolate chai was heavenly. It comes in a canister, enough for two to three people and the infusion of white chocolate ganache is a delicious touch.
The prices are slightly more expensive than the chocolate restaurants I frequent. For instance, my waffle was USD $14.25. Now convert that to CAD, and it really hits your pocket. Since it was my first and probably last time visiting Max Brenner (because there isn’t one in Toronto yet), I didn’t mind the prices.
Our server quickly arrived at our table and took our orders, likely due to the huge line up of people waiting to be seated. She was friendly and knowledgeable. Our orders came unexpectedly quick, much to our delight, and a little suspicion on the freshness of the food placed in front of us. I forget if our server returned to ask how the food was, we were so immersed in conversation, we didn’t notice.
At the end, we waited ten minutes to receive our bill. Although, when we asked for separate bills, our server appeared slightly annoyed (perhaps she should’ve asked before bringing our bill?). What I found odd was the bottom of the bill where the most expensive tip option was circled. I’m unsure if this is an American thing, but it’s unlike something I’ve seen in Canada. I do usually tip, however, the amount is based on my experience with my server, the food and the overall vibe of the restaurant. However, I have heard about the low wages of American servers.
The restaurant is geared towards anyone—families and couples alike. The dining area looked crowded under the semi-bright yellow lights. Probably because it was filled to the brim with people. It’s an intimate setting with everyone else dining at Max Brenner. The tables are placed close to each other. Once seated, there was no space to back out of my chair without bumping the person sitting at the table behind me. It’s typically noisy, which does drown out the conversations of people around you. And it does look relatively clean.
The Chocolate Shop
The New York City location has a Chocolate Shop attached to it. Here you can browse the shelves filled with Max Brenner’s chocolate-y creations. Most of the chocolate available in the Chocolate Shops are Kosher Dairy. There is a wide range of chocolate bricks, colourful bonbons, caramelized nuts and crispy wafers.
As with most restaurants that claim a certain unique-ness, Max Brenner restaurant wasn’t one of them. It has good dessert options, but it’s a doppelganger of Toronto’s Cacao 70, Dunk’n Dip or any other dessert restaurant that serves ice cream, waffles, crepes and fondue, alongside a savoury menu. Despite most menu items hitting home for me, it’s one of those places to visit once, feel satisfied you’ve tried it and then move on to explore the next dessert restaurant. Although, if you find yourself in New York City, craving something sweet, I would recommend Max Brenner. Just make reservations beforehand.
Have you been to Max Brenner? If not, what’s your favourite dessert restaurant?
If you’ve been in Toronto during wintertime, you probably heard someone mention they’re heading to Blue Mountain for the weekend.
Just an hour and half drive north of Toronto, Blue Mountain is Ontario’s largest mountain village ski resort, nestled between the foothills of the Niagara Escarpment’s scenic Blue Mountains and the rugged shores of Georgian Bay. The main activity is, of course, skiing and snowboarding on one of Blue Mountain’s 42 ski trails. But, if that’s not your forte or you’ve fallen or crashed down the slopes one too many times (like I always do), you don’t need to sit in the chalet and wait for your friends to finish skiing or snowboarding. Instead, you can visit Blue Mountain Village guest services and book an activity. Here is a list of the top 10 winter activities you can do on or nearby Blue Mountain Resort:
- Ride a horse
Location: off resort, 302 Grey County Rd 21, The Blue Mountains
You’ve probably horseback ridden before, but did you do it in the snow? Mountain View Stables is located just five minutes from Blue Mountain Resort. The trail ride takes you through a scenic meadow, past streams, where the ski slopes come into view in the distance. The horses are calm and know their way around the trails, that they sometimes take shortcuts. The horse stable has many other animals, like pigs, which you can occupy yourself with, while you wait for the horses to get ready for the trail ride.
- Drive a Snowmobile
Location: off resort, 574751 Rd 57D, Ravenna
My favourite winter activity and it’s fun as hell. If you haven’t been skidooing, Ride on Rentals lets you test your skills in a large, snowy field. Once you gain the hang of it, join a scenic snowmobile ride through a snowy, barren forest. Watch your navigation though, when I went, someone crashed and uprooted a small tree.
- Go Dog Sledding
Location: off resort, 469358 Grey Rd 31, Singhampton
Whether or not you love dogs (who doesn’t though?!), this activity is the epitome of winter-living. At Rob Roy Farm, stand behind the sled and drive an adorable pack of purebred Siberian huskies as they haul you through the snow. Check out the nearby igloos and enjoy a mug of hot chocolate after
- Hike in Snowshoes
Location: off resort, pick up from Blue Mountain Village
There are multiple snowshoe hikes to pick from: a guided night snowshoe hike, snowshoe and wine tasting tour and a Hummer and snowshoe hike. Whether you’d like to snowshoe along scenic, moonlit trails and discover animal nightlife, tour the Georgian Hills Vineyards to enjoy local wine and cheese, or be driven ‘military style’ up a mountain to enjoy panoramic views of Georgian Bay, snowshoeing provides hours worth of adventure whether solo or with family or friends.
- Ice Skate
Location: on resort
A bit easier than skiing or snowboarding, skate along a 1.1 km mountaintop ice skating loop, while enjoying the views of the Niagara Escarpment, or skate on Mill Pond in Blue Mountain Village. Ice skate rentals are available and all skill levels are welcome.
- Explore caves
Location: off resort, pick up from Blue Mountain Village
Snowshoe through the woods to explore some of the Niagara Escarpment’s uniquely formed caves. Once at the caves, you will take off you snowshoes and enter inside. You’ll be climbing and crawling to navigate the caves and it’s a whole different world underground! A great activity for families.
Location: on resort
Decide your speed on this ride. Alone or with a passenger, cruise along the track’s twists and turns or race up to 42 km/hour with a self-controlled accelerator. And the best thing? Lineups are usually short because multiple people are allowed to ride at a time.
- Visit Blue Mountain Village
Location: on resort
A quaint-looking village with turn-of-the-century Ontario architecture. Its boasts family accommodations, restaurants, cafes and clothing stores. Enjoy the classic Canadian dessert, Beaver Tails, by frozen Mill Pond or while you browse through the shops.
Guided by a former forest ranger, gain knowledge on how the wolf lives in a functioning ecosystem. Wolves once populated large portions of Canada, but were hunted to near extinction. Wolves are legendary because of their howl, which they use to communicate. You will howl like a wolf and hopefully garner a response.
Location: off resort, pick up from Blue Mountain Village
- Relax at a Spa
Location: on resort
There is a plethora of spas on and off Blue Mountain Resort, but the Scandinave Spa is popular for a reason. Famous for its Finnish hydrotherapy approach, the Scandinave Spa claims to effectively release tensions in both the mind and the body with its cycle of hot-cold-relax. You’ll leave this spa detoxified and relaxed, with improved blood circulation.
Blue Mountain Resort offers a wonderful way to enjoy snow and engage in Canadian activities that don’t necessarily involve hitting the slopes. What’s your favourite way to spend the winter?
It’s become very common for new dessert cafés to open in Toronto.
Whether on Facebook or Instagram, it seems like restaurants are competing with who can have the most outlandish, Instagram-able dessert dish, and they’re depending on customers to make their restaurant famous through social media pictures. From ice cream tacos, to black ice cream, to a ten-inch stack of buttery, custard-coated toast drowned in mangoes, whipped cream and vanilla ice cream, you’ll find no shortage of dessert options in Toronto.
With my sweet-tooth, I’ve had a fair share of the sugary goodness Toronto offers. With so many dessert places to choose from, I’ve narrowed down a list of 7 Toronto dessert cafes you should visit:
My addiction to éclairs came early. My dad used to purchase éclairs from a Toronto bakery to make me feel better after my dentist appointments. Gourmet éclairs came into my radar a few years ago, and I’ve been hooked since.
French patisserie, Delysees, not only serves artisan éclairs, but also uniquely-flavoured macarons, chocolate bonbons, mini cakes and cappuccinos that will melt you in a puddle of sweet bonheur.
780 King Street West
- Cacao 70
Cacao 70 takes the aphrodisiac diet-buster to create a fun, exceptional menu. If you live, breath or—of course—eat chocolate, this is your spot.
Indulge in their extensive chocolate collection, which includes 64.5% Peru (a slightly bitter cocoa taste with a fruity note) and 31% French Cream (white chocolate, with nutty undertones, and a hint of citrus and vanilla), to choose which chocolate you’d like to pair with your waffles, fondue, drinks and other treats on the menu.
485 Queen Street West
28 Gristmill Lane
- Snakes and Lattes
A lively café, which boasts over 3000 board games. Don’t know how to play a game? Servers are well-versed in board game rules and will happily teach you and your group of friends how to play. You can imagine spending hours here, long after your latte is finished. Wait times get 1-2 hours long on weekday nights and weekends, so it’s recommended to go early.
600 Bloor Street West
489 College Street
45 Eglinton Avenue East
- Bakerbots Baking
This little café is in the quaint Toronto neighbourhood, the Annex. Its owner, Roasanna, began as an illustrator and painter working out of New York, but she quickly succumbed to her love of sweets and pastries after traveling to Europe. She later enrolled in the Baking and Pastry arts program at Toronto’s George Brown College.
Bakerbots features tarts, crème puffs, cakes and cookies, yet its reputably known for its ice cream sandwiches. Customers can choose a cookie and ice cream pairing from the chalkboard menu or create an ice cream sandwich concoction themselves. And it’s delicious.
205 Delaware Avenue
- Poop Café
The name may sound unfit for a place where people eat, but it’s exactly this that drives people to the café—to check out the absurdity.
This self-proclaimed ‘Doo-Doo Themed Restaurant’ has customers perch on toilet bowl seats, under the dim glow of plunger-shaped lights. Dishware consists of potty bowls and urinal water glasses.
Do people go for the food? With the plethora of poop-emoji pillows, poop facts on the wall, and large poop doll, it’s more for Instagram photos and the social media hype. The food, however, is good. It’s Asian-inspired and consists of desserts like Nutella bingsu and custard poop-shaped waffle.
706 Bloor Street West
- Butter Avenue
A classy café famous for its fresh macarons. Described as Japanese perfection with Scandinavian style, Butter Avenue is the perfect spot to buy afternoon tea and dessert. The macarons come in a spiffy ‘Butter Avenue’ embossed box and gift bag, making it nice for gift giving.
477 Queen Street West
- Eva’s Original Chimneys
Eva was born and raised in Hungary, but made her way to Canada during the revolution. Missing her childhood, Eva often spoke about how she would eat Kürtoskalács (chimney cakes) on special occasions. Her grandson and his wife set off to travel the world for a year, and found themselves in Hungary, eating the very same chimney cakes Grandma Eva used to tell them about. And that’s how Toronto’s Eva’s Original Chimney came to be.
I remember when Eva’s O.G. Chimneys was just a food truck. Now, their brick and mortar cafe is a hit. The chimney cones are baked and then rolled in organic cane sugar. They are filled with ice cream and come in flavours like matcha crunch, banoffee pie, Thai mango sticky rice and even some vegan options.
454 Bloor Street West
Did I miss anything? What’s your favourite dessert spot? Let me know in the comments below!